Rob Casey is the owner of Salmon Bay Paddle in Seattle and is the author of two paddling guides.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Easy Surfboard, SUP or Kayak Rack Pads

1" Diameter Foam

I'm a big fan of simplicity and keeping things affordable.  Here in Seattle in the land of REI and other big outdoor companies we are car rack happy. Daily you'll see tons of rocket boxes, every type of rack accessory on one rack and SUP and kayak racks squeezed on one car.  When I started kayaking in 2000 I got the Yakima Hully Rollers which were cool. Then I started to get into whitewater and surf kayaking. Those boats have planning hulls (flat bottomed) which didn't fit well in the half circle kayak cradle shape.  So I got the Yakima Kayak Stackers, the vertical metal posts which allow for ww and surf boats to be stacked on their sides. When I added SUPs in 2007ish, these stacked flat on one side tied to the cross bar while my ww, surf kayaks or sea kayaks stacked on their sides attached to the kayak stackers on the other side. Eventually SUP usage outweighed kayak usage and the towers went away.

14 years after adding a rack to my car I'm now just using two cross bars. They are the longest version so I can carry 8 boards for big tours and such (length to side mirror ends).  I did go through a period of using fabric pads on the cross bars. Most had brand or shop names printed on the pad but I chose not to advertise other's businesses on my business vehicle. Now I pad them with Insulation foam bought for $1.79 at hardward stores. The tubes slide on easy which I secure with black electral tape or in the below pics, thin bungy cord.  They last a good 6 months of heavy use, and are super easy to replace.  Pool noodles are also a great option over your cross bars but those are hard to find here in the non summer seasons.

Another advantage of this type of rack is that you can use it for other purposes. SUP and kayak racks limit your roof usage for carrying other items.

Here's a few pics of how I attach the insulation foam.  For Yakima cross bars I get the 1" diameter insulation foam. I'm able to use one piece end to end on each cross bar, attaching electrical tape or thin bungy every 1' or so.  If you add the tube in pieces, they will roll as you push your board or kayak on the car. This can help slide your craft on easier.

Bungy tied around foam. Ends will be cut off.

Friday, January 2, 2015

How to do the Pivot Turn for SUP - Easily

How to do the Pivot Turn for SUP - Easily.

One of the most talked about and frustrating SUP techniques is the Pivot Turn.  If you're racing you may need to use it to go around buoys in a hurry. I use is in surf to turn quickly to catch waves and get back out after a ride before the next wave comes in. 

With friends and students, we also practice it often to see how high we can get the board out of the water before falling in.

Most Common Errors:

- Taking paddle blade out of the water after each stroke.
- Not bending knees.
- Stalling the paddle to regain balance.
- Not practicing enough. 
- Over use of the pivot turn for buoy turns. It's always the best way around. 

Safety Tips:
- Practice in deep water so you don't land on something.
- Don't fall with the board facing another paddler or dock - it'll shoot out!
- Fall flat on water spread eagle (or Hi-C plunge) style. This will prevent you from landing feet first on something underneath.
- Dress for immersion. It's more fun to fall if you're comfortable with the water temp. 
- Use a leash to prevent board from getting awaya from you when falling. It will shoot out!

Step by Step Technique: 
Surf style boards technique below. Longer boards to 17 feet or longer require walking back further to get the nose out. 

- Stand in middle of board with both feet facing forward (non surf stance).

- Place your paddle blade flat (power face up - back of paddle flat on surface) in the water next to you (middle of board). This provides stability.

- Keeping blade flat on water at your side - Slide or step one foot behind you about 6 inches. Then slide your other foot back parallel to the first.  Do this one more time - 6" (approx) for first, then second foot.  Notice how your board nose rises out of the water. 

- Keeping knees slightly bent, begin to turn the board with a forward or reverse sweep turn (side turn). Spin the board in a 360.  
Watch Pivot Turn Video Here

Balance Tip: After you take a stroke, instead of taking the blade out of the water - rotate so it slides flat on the surface with the power face up (this is the Sweeping Brace) back to your starting point (catch) for the next stroke.  I use this regularly especially in bumpy water or surf. 

- With blade on water flat - Step one foot back another 6" or so rising the nose out further. Stay in this position, also called Surfer's Stance. Make sure each foot is on opposite sides of the center line. Bend you knees more to a squat (Note: lean into board as it raises out of the water). 

- Do the turn again, making sure to keep the blade flat on the water power face up during your recovery.  If you rest, keep blade flat on water. Taking it out to waist level means a swim. 

- Feeling tippy? Don't stall!  Keep the blade moving - either turning, or sweeping across surface of water.  Stay low too - don't raise your paddle above your head looking for stability. Staying low is more stable than rising up.  In unstable water note how surfers and river paddlers stay low.  

Now try to walk back further raising nose higher. The higher it goes the quicker you need to paddle and recover with the sweeping brace. Stay loose, knees bent, no stalling.  

Recover by walking back to the center of the board by staying low but paddling forward as you walk forward. Like riding a bike, stalling means falling.  Paddle forward or turn the board in circles as you step back to the center of the board.  

Important - Practice often!  We like to get the board as far out as possible then recover.  

Next Step - Turn backwards on board facing fin, then walk to nose to get fin out to spin around!  

Contact me if you have any questions! / 206.465.7167

How to Get on Your Paddle Board Near the Tail (back 1/3rd of board)

How to get on your SUP from the back end of the board, adjacent to the tail

New Zealand SUP instructor Stuart Murray showed me this method of getting on your board. For boards which have less volume in the tail, this is the easiest method of getting on after a fall.

Many struggle to get on their boards in the middle due to the higher volume - width and thickness. Most non inflatable boards have less foil (thickness) and width in the tail this making the tail section easier to get on top of with less effort.

There's two ways to get on using the tail - from the rear of the board, called the Cowboy Rescue (see here) and using the last 1/3rd of the board adjacent to the tail - See diagram below.

Step by Step Technique:
- Approach the board from the side, adjacent to the tail (see diagram above)

- Holding the paddle with the hand facing the nose, place both hands on the tail and lean onto it. On surf style boards you should easily push the tail into the water and slide or lean on the board with less effort.

Tip: Kick your feet behind you if you you're not on already and need an additional push or lift.  Kicking your feet lifts your body to the surface so you're pulling your body on over the surface of the water vs pulling up from underneath.

- Once half way on grab both rails with your hands to pull yourself on the deck towards the nose. Kick your feet in the water (vigorously) to assist in getting on.

Tip:  Wax your rails to create better grip for getting on.  We wax our rails especially when paddling in whitewater or surf where falling is common and we're getting back on in rough water.

Watch the Video here to learn how..

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Thanks for your reading my site in 2014! Take our 2 minute Survey...

Thanks for checking in and trying out Stoke Magazine in 2014!

Looking forward, if you could take my 2 minute survey below, it'll help in making sure this blog is benefitial to you!

All responses are checked out prior to going public; or send in private to me at

- How did you find Stoke Magazine? (search engine, referral, etc)

- What do you think of our content?

- What can we do to offer better content or be more useful to you?

- Any topics you'd like to see on Stoke Magazine?

Thanks again for your time!

To learn more about SUP'ing or Kayaking, join my mailing list by sending me your email or signing up on our other page, Salmon Bay Paddle.

I also offer montly SUP instructor training courses through the PSUPA.  We can also travel to you.

Coming to the Pacific Northwest?  Give us a holler to take one of our tours or classes. We can also develop custom online content to help you learn how to paddle.

We can teach you:

- Freighter Wave Surfing
- Tug Wave Surfing
- Tidal Rapids Training in Deception Pass
- SUP or Kayak 101
- Downwinding for SUP or Kayak
- SUP or Kayak Surfing
- Racing
- Anything missing? We'd like to help you fill in the gaps.

Thanks again!  

Rob Casey

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Cowboy Rescue for SUPs - Getting on at the tail

I teach 3 different ways to get on a SUP after falling off.  Most common is getting on at the middle, less common is at the last third of the board adjacent to the tail, then at the tail, which we call the Cowboy Rescue.

The term Cowboy or Cowgirl if that sounds better for you, came from kayaking in getting on the boat at end ends, like jumping on top the rear of a horse.

- Easy way to get on the board if the board is too wide or thick in the middle.

- May not work for thick inflatables 6" to 8" which may also curve up at the tail.
- You may have to let go of the paddle to get on (by placing in front of you on board)
- If the board has a wide tail, it may not work.

How it works...
- Move to the back of the board, so you are facing the tail.

- Grab both ends of the board with your hands.  Waxing the rails makes it easier to grab.

- Place the paddle across the deck in front you or hold on with one hand while placing it partially over the deck. Sometimes the paddle may bounce around and may fall off the board.

- Start kicking your feet to create white water behind you. This raises your body to the surface thus making it easier to pull yourself on the board.  Not doing this means having to lift you body on with your arms only.

- Continue pulling yourself on the board until you reach the middle.

Watch it here:
Can't see it? Click Here.

Tip:  Got a thick rail or inflatable too thick to climb on the tail?  Try my stirrup rescue. Read more here.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How to Get on your Paddle Board from the Side

Many try to avoid falling off their SUP, but eventually you will fall in - and it's no big deal or a fail if you do.  I say that as I hear all the time 'did you fall?' It is a water sport and in my opinion if you're not falling, you're not trying hard enough or not having enough fun.

That said, how do you get back on?  Most will try to get back on from the side in the middle. For most boards this is actually the most difficult place to get back on as the board will be the thickest, and unless you're tall like me, you may struggle to grab the handle or opposite side to help pull yourself back on. It's actually easier to get on at the back 1/3 of the board by the tail where you board should be less thick and where there's less width.  Watch for future videos from me on other mounting techniques.

Here's a few tips for getting back on from the side...

Why folks fail in getting back on:
- Their vest style PFD is catching on the rail as they try to pull themselves up.

- They lack upper body strength to pull themselves on.

- Their board is really thick thus making it more difficult to pull up on (5-6" thick)

- They have an inflatable which may be 6" thick from nose to tail thus difficult to get on and slippery.

Your Paddle:
- Hold on to your paddle when you fall off.  If you let go, get on the board the prone paddle to your paddle (paddling on chest like a surfer with alternating hands)

- While getting on, place your paddle on the deck and hold with one hand while getting on. Or stick in deck outfitting or bungees to keep you hands free to climb on.

Getting on Easier:

Holding on to the side of the board with paddle in one hand, kick your feet vigorously which will raise your body to the surface.  You should be creating whitewater with your feet. As you body reaches the surface, begin to pull up on the board simultaneously.  Grab on the deck handle if that helps as you pull yourself on.

I don't quit kicking until I'm 100% on the board. Thick race boards with heightened rails can be difficult to get over, as well as some 6" and 8" thick inflatables.

Alternative to Side Mounting:
- Get on the tail of the board. Place paddle on deck in front of you as you use both hands to pull on.
- Get on the deck next to the tail (last 1/3rd of board).
- Attach a caribiner connected to a short car rack strap to your leash plug string and use as a step or stirrup to assist in getting back on. Search this blog for how to do this.

Tip: Use surf wax on your rails to make them stickier thus easier to grab.

Note of Caution: If your PFD is strapped to the deck but you can't get back on and are in cold water, you may have a problem. Consider wearing your pfd (waist or pfd) to stay afloat if you're too cold or tired to swim or stay afloat.

Winter River SUP Surfing Tips

Paddling rivers in winter (northern winters) can take some creativity to stay warm.  Here's a few tips to keep you paddling in the 'off season.'  With a warm wetsuit and related gear there's no reason to stop paddling in winter, unless your water spot is frozen over.

Before the Paddle:
- Wear your wet or drysuit to the river.  If your drive to the river is less than an hour, wear your wetsuit to avoid having to put it on in a cold parking lot or alongside the road.

- Bring a 1-2 gallon jug of hot water to pour on your hands before going out or on yourself after the

- Warm booties. I'm a big fan of 7mm booties and those with thick soles not only for walking on rocks but also keeping your feet warm on cold pavement or ground. Try to keep your feet at dry as possible in frigid temperatures.  Currently I'm using the NRS ShockSock & FreeStyle wetshoes which solve all those issues.

- Bring a old foam camping pad to stand on while changing in the parking lot. This will keep your feet insulated and warmer.

- Changing Poncho. These oversized fabric ponchos cover you up in public and keep you warmer when changing into your gear.

- Bring a puffy warm coat and hat to put on while taking your board off the car. I don't remove my coat until I'm ready to head out to the river. Same with coming back - coat goes on as soon as I get to the car while loading gear, or after I take my wetsuit off (if I do so there).  Warm grippy gloves are great too for changing and loading gear.

After the Paddle:
- Start your car immediately to get the heat going.

- Keep your gloves and hood on til your board is tied onto the car.  I get coldest if I remove my gloves before changing out my clothes or tying the board down after the paddle.

- Have a warm non-alchololic beverage ready to sip while loading.

- Stand on your foam pad while loading gear and/or removing clothing.

A Few Essential Safety Gear Options:
- Get a quick release river SUP leash like the Badfish re-leash, or thin gauge leashes made by NorthWater or NRS.  These can be cut easier than thicker surf leashes if needed.

- Lifejacket (PFD). Get a river kayaking style vest style PFD with a quick release belt to attach your leash to. A vest style PFD will keep your core warm. I like one with pockets to store essential gear such as a power bar, knife, whistle, etc.

- Helmet. Always wear a helmet in whitewater. SUP'ers like minimalism, but in this environment you're more likely to hit your head than on open water.  And in winter it keeps your head much warmer. I use Gath helmets as they have great ear coverage, are flexible to your head and have innovative designs.

- Always paddle with a friend who has solid river skills and can rescue you (and vice versa).  You always read about the benefit of paddling in groups. It's not benefitial if your buddy can't swim or help you when needed. Check each other's gear before hitting the water.

 Read my 30 Tips for Staying Warm in Winter for SUP Magazine..

Spokane River, 12/27/14 Charlie & Chris Cindric Surfing